Stay updated on news and events

Subscribe to newsletter

Innovation project to boost root growth against drought

Innovation Fund Denmark, processing companies and the three biggest Danish universities invest millions in development of future drought-tolerant plant species.

For the sixth year in a row the weather in Europe is again steering towards drought. Meanwhile, researchers and processing companies are working hard to develop new plant species with deeper roots and better drought-tolerance. Now, Innovation Fund Denmark is investing EUR 2,4 million in a new project where researchers and processing companies will use the world’s most advanced root-screening facility and artificial intelligence to speed up the development.

“We have already through the last four years of research achieved a great amount of knowledge about root growth in plants”, says Christian Sig Jensen, leader at biotek at DLF, who coordinate the new project, RadiBooster. “In grasses, we know that there are big differences in root growth between species and kinds. This information is important when the goal is to utilize the genetics to improve future species against spring drought.”

New platform ensures efficient measurements

However, the measurement of root-growth is not an easy task. Because of this, the partners have developed a root-screening platform, RadiMax, that can test up to 600 species simultaneously. Through plexiglass tubes, multispectral photos can be taken of the species’ roots down to 3 meters depth. In the new project, around one million pictures are to be taken annually. In order to detect the roots on so many pictures, the researchers are now beginning to use artificial intelligence. The goal is to draw precise root-profiles for every species, which then can be used to select new lines with the deepest roots.

However, the efforts do not stop with the RadiMax-platform. The same species are also testet at field-level to connect their stress response with the root development. Here, the processors will use the latest drone technology to measure the species’ stress levels. There will also be produced a genome profile of all the species tested so future DNA-tests can predict whether new processing material has a strong root growth.

Source: DLF (In Danish)